WAKS (96.5 FM) – branded 96.5 KISS-FM – is a commercial contemporary hit radio (CHR) radio station licensed to Akron, Ohio, serving Greater Cleveland and much of surrounding Northeast Ohio. Owned by iHeartMedia, Inc., WAKS serves as the Cleveland affiliate for Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, and American Top 40; and the home of radio personality "Java Joel" Murphy. The WAKS studios are located in the Cleveland suburb of Independence, while the station transmitter resides in neighboring Brecksville. Besides a standard analog transmission, WAKS broadcasts over two HD Radio channels, and is available online via iHeartRadio.
WKDD (96.5 FM)
By 1977, WCUE-FM – which at that time was broadcasting an album oriented rock (AOR) format – switched its format to "mellow rock" and callsign to WKDD. John Gorman, then Program Director at Cleveland rock station WMMS, recalls competing with WKDD in the Akron and Canton radio markets in its earlier days: "... the station attempted to create a 'Mellow Rock' mascot... " By the late 1980s, WKDD unseated WMMS as the highest rated station in the Akron market, including both Summit and Portage counties. The two stations continued to struggle for ratings dominance well into the 1990s. Often, one of the two claimed the number one position in the Birch ratings service, while the other won Arbitron's top spot.
Danny Wright and Matt Patrick (Michael Ryan) were among the station's personalities. In 1987, WKDD raised Patrick's salary; his was already the highest in the Akron market, nearly five times the average for all other personalities in the market. In 1995, Patrick attempted to leave for Cleveland station WLTF (now WHLK). This drew a legal fight from WKDD, which claimed Patrick's contract prevented him from leaving for any station within 40 miles of WKDD.
2001 "frequency swap"
On July 3, 2001, WKDD was one of seven Northeast Ohio radio stations involved in a complex exchange between three radio companies. Although generally reported as a "frequency swap", in reality these seven radio stations mostly traded callsigns along with their respective formats and staffs – all to facilitate the transfers of ownership of four of the seven stations. As part of this complex exchange, Clear Channel Communications (which would become iHeartMedia on September 16, 2014) changed the WKDD format from hot adult contemporary (hot AC) to contemporary hit radio (CHR); rebranded the station using the KISS-FM brand; reassigned on and off-air personnel; and on July 23, 2001, changed the station callsign to WAKS. In effect, this new WAKS licensed to Akron (96.5 FM) became the successor to the previous WAKS licensed to Lorain (104.9 FM).
While licensed to Akron, and identified at the top of every hour as "WAKS Akron-Cleveland", the station's studios are located with the rest of iHeartMedia's Cleveland cluster off Rockside Road in the Cleveland suburb of Independence, in addition to the aforementioned transmitter placement in Brecksville on a tower used for other Cleveland radio stations. WAKS promotes itself as, and is generally considered to be, a Cleveland radio station.
Since November 2001, WAKS has been an affiliate of the internationally known syndicated program American Top 40 which has aired on Saturday mornings from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. From the time WAKS picked up the show until January 3, 2004 it was hosted by the legendary Casey Kasem. On January 10, 2004, American Idol's Ryan Seacrest (whose weekday On Air show also airs on WAKS) began hosting the show.
Weekday programming includes Elvis Duran and the Morning Show mornings and On Air with Ryan Seacrest middays, both via Premiere Networks. WAKS personality "Java Joel" Murphy hosts the weekday afternoon music shift; all other music shifts are either voice-tracked out-of-market specifically for WAKS or programmed via Premium Choice. Weekend programming includes American Top 40, Saturday Night Online and Club Kane. The HD2 digital subchannel broadcasts a mainstream urban format via Premium Choice under the brand The Beat.